Over the last several weeks I have been watching a mix of John Huston films, at first coincidentally and then quite intentionally. I have always been interested in Huston, though up until this series of viewings I had only seen The Maltese Falcon. And while I love that film, my fondness for it is all Bogart and Lorre, not necessarily Huston, who I otherwise remembered as the actor who played Noah Cross. Even so, I've had a vague awareness of Huston's myth as a Hemingwayesque man's man kind of artist -- a cigar-chomping, hard-liquor-guzzling, self-destructive gambler that womanizes and hunts large game and WILL FIGHT YOU BECAUSE HE DOES NOT GIVE A SHIT -- an archetype of the American character that has always been intriguing to me (which Robert Altman seems to fit as well). Knowing this, I was especially interested to see the portrayals of masculinity and the internal conflicts of the protagonists within his films, both of which were nicely introduced by Key Largo, the film that I began with.
What makes the film more psychoanalytically interesting is that Nora's father, with whom she lives alone, is in a wheelchair, making him unable to act. Thus, McCloud's virility and violence allow him to take Nora's father's place in Nora's life as the true masculine figure. Ironically, the hyper-masculinity McCloud has to show by the film's end is not too different from the hyper-masculinity displayed by Rocco throughout the entire film, who waves his gun around in an perpetual state of threat. McCloud's smarter than that (at one point he says: "You don't like it, do you Rocco, the storm? Show it your gun, why don't you? If it doesn't stop, shoot it.") but, eventually, using a gun is the only way to get things done.
In the next post I'll go over the later films I saw, which include Wise Blood, Under the Volcano, and Fat City.